Support the inclusion of "species" into the NASW Code of Ethics


In an effort to open a dialog and examine the relationship between human suffering and oppression of non-human animals, we the undersigned request that: The term species be included within the NASW Code of Ethics in regards to, but not limited to, the Social and Political Action section.

We request the following revision be considered:

"Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, mental or physical disability, or species."

Please find Thomas Ryan's proposal for an "Inclusive Code of Ethics for Social Workers" on pages 166-170 in Animals and Social Work: A Moral Introduction.  The "Inclusive Code of Ethics" is available for preview through Amazon.  Other references are also available on the resources page of Social Workers for Animals.



The term species should be included within the NASW Code of Ethics in an effort to highlight the connection between the oppression of human beings and non-human animals. The NASW Code of Ethics states, "The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well­-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty." By remaining silent on animal rights, the NASW is essentially turning a blind eye to a major cause of human suffering.

The absence of any mention of animal rights allows educators teaching an ecological framework to omit the relationship between meat and dairy consumption and its effect on issues such as hunger, poverty, war, indigenous rights, land rights, and labor rights. The United Nations (and many scientific bodies) reports that animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change. This affects people living on islands due to an increase in water temperatures leading to hurricanes and loss of land. This affects people who do not have enough water because their sources of clean water has been privatized and used for animal agriculture, or their water is polluted from farm runoff. The grain saved by American people simply reducing meat consumption could feed 60 million people. The demands for meat and dairy consumption, which requires much more land than a plant-based diet, can leading to fighting within and between nations for scarce land. Indigenous people are also losing their homes and their way of life due to forest destruction and over-fishing. Slaughterhouse workers are exposed to health and safety hazards. Injuries are under-reported due to the fear of losing employment, fear of deportation, company pressure, and corporate influence on OSHA regulations and reporting.

Omitting species discourages a discussion on the comparison of animals as a marginalized group, and how their treatment affects human behavior. Omitting species discourages an in-depth discussion on animal treatment and how animal cruelty is a key predictor of violent behavior in adolescent males. It discourages an in-depth discussion on animal maltreatment by an adult within a home being an indicator of child maltreatment. Does the maltreatment of animals for food have an affect on society or individuals as the maltreatment of domesticated animals such as cats and dogs? We cannot say for sure, but perhaps if this dialog is opened, then we can begin to better examine the relationship between human oppression and animal oppression.

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